Honor Watch GS Pro full review

The Honor Watch GS Pro pulls in a different direction to practically every other wearable we've seen from the company. The chunky ruggedised design, sizeable battery and features geared towards the great outdoors mean the GS Pro broadens the appeal of Honor's current smartwatch portfolio significantly.

While the company has broken free from former parent entity Huawei, there are clear signs that the GS Pro was developed and built while the two companies still shared a lot of their infrastructure.

In some ways, Honor's latest smartwatch is not dissimilar from Huawei's Watch GT 2 Pro, albeit focusing more on hardiness rather than premium materials in its construction, while the software experience remains mostly unchanged; for those who've sported any of either company's Lite OS-powered timepieces in the past.

Design and build

Easily the biggest departure from any of the watches Honor has made previously and almost all of Huawei's (save for perhaps 2017's Huawei Watch 2 Sport); the aesthetics of the Watch GS Pro take a tentative step towards the great outdoors, without committing wholeheartedly.

Originally launched in 'Charcoal Black' (and later 'Marl White' and 'Camo Blue'), the GS Pro sports a circular display with a polished (fixed) compass bezel, atop an angular 48mm polycarbonate casing, with two stainless steel buttons set into the watch's right side.

Honor Watch GS Pro lugs

Pairs of geometric lugs stretch out to shoulder the included 22mm quick-release fluororubber (or in the case of the blue model, braided nylon) strap, which doesn't look like it's removable but actually clips off with relative ease (although not so much that you'd be worried about it detaching during general wear).

Two loops - one with a notch to slot into the closely-spaced adjustment holes running the length of the band - ensure the tongue of unused strap remains out of the way during wear, while a brushed metal tang buckle provides a secure but comfortable fit.

Honor Watch GS Pro quick release pins

Although the stainless steel bezel rises slightly above the flat display (offering some protection from glancing blows), the screen-to-bezel ratio betrays the outdoorsy image the watch embodies in its marketing material. This feels like a rugged watch in the same way Range Rover's Evoque is styled as a road car with offroad sensibilities, rather than a true rough-and-tumble 4x4, like the original Defender.

The company bills the GS Pro as a watch intended for "urban adventurers," which feels like a more honest portrayal of the potential use cases the watch would operate in, despite the messaging of its promotional imagery.

Honor Watch GS Pro flat angled

That said, the company has still made sure to imbue the GS Pro with some worthwhile protection, which includes a MIL-STD-810G construction (meaning it's tested against [14] weather, temperature and shock extremes), as well as 5ATM water resistance - meaning the watch can also facilitate swim tracking.

Display and audio

Although the watch's expansive screen raises mild durability concerns - primarily by being so big and relatively unprotected - it makes for a pleasing viewing experience that's sizeable, bright and bold enough to convey a wealth of information, even during a quick glance mid-workout.

The circular 1.39in AMOLED touchscreen is protected by aluminosilicate glass (known for its shock resistance - especially where high temperatures are concerned) and sports a pixel density of 326ppi - making it comparable to displays on the likes of the Apple Watch Series 6.

The screen supports automatic brightness adjustment, screen timeout controls, always-on functionality and tilt-to-wake - which is enabled by default.

Watch faces

Honor pre-loads 12 analogue and digital watch faces but if you're not enamoured by the out-of-box options, scores more can be downloaded via the Huawei Health companion smartphone app.

Honor Watch GS Pro on wrist

Some faces feature complications - small elements within a watch face that pull in additional data, like heart rate, battery level, weather and more.

You can choose which complications to display, as well as how many (the maximum number of which varies by watch face), however, only two of the default 12 support them and, when downloading additional faces, there's no easy way to know which offer complication support without checking manually each time.

Honor Watch GS Pro watch faces

You're given a set of always-on faces to choose from that are separate from the standard watch faces.

On the upside, this means the style of the always-on face isn't dictated by the design of the waking watch face, as it is on numerous other smartwatch OSes. However, you're limited to just six always-on options on the GS Pro with no additional alternatives available to download. You do at least get the ability to choose the accent colour on most of them.

Audio

The watch also conceals a microphone and speaker. There's no integrated virtual assistant here, so the microphone is only used when you decide to field a call (enabled via your phone over Bluetooth), while the speaker is used for voice calls, music playback and workout instructions.

The thick body of the GS Pro is undoubtedly more cavernous than most other smartwatches and it carries sound better than you might expect; with the Pro's speaker proving loud and surprisingly clear.

There's a lack of bass (because anything other than tinny audio would defy the laws of physics) but in spite of its shallow depth, the watch produces clear sound that cuts through background din; great for getting audio updates from the watch mid-workout but a terrible way to enjoy music playback (for that, connecting Bluetooth headphones is unquestionably recommended).

Software and features

Lite OS is both Huawei and Honor's smartwatch operating system of choice, and as its name suggests, the experience on offer feels notably stripped back compared to Google's Wear OS, Apple's Watch OS or Samsung's Tizen OS.

Part of this 'feel' comes from the level of performance on offer but functionality, by comparison, is also on the basic side; especially as far as user interaction is concerned.

Beyond your main watch face, a swipe down reveals quick access to features like Alarm and Find my Phone (as well as a shortcut to the full settings menu), while a swipe up brings you to your notifications. Swiping left or right runs through what Lite OS calls 'Favourites' - fullscreen widgets that tread similar ground to complications, covering heart rate, stress, weather, music controls, daily activity and more.

Honor Watch GS Pro weather widget

Notifications are - for the most part - 'dumb', lacking the ability to action anything they bring to your attention directly. Other smartwatch platforms offer smart replies or the ability to open the relevant app on your phone remotely so that it's there when you unlock your device. In most cases, all you get on the GS Pro is the information presented within a notification and little else to do with it.

Pressing the upper of the watch's two hardware buttons launches into the apps menu, where all of the fitness and wellbeing features - as well as pre-loaded apps for call logs, contacts, weather, timers, alarms, a torch and even a compass - reside. The bottom button, meanwhile, jumps to workouts by default, but is programmable to open any of the GS Pro's main apps with a single press.

Honor Watch GS Pro apps menu

If you're looking to run with music playback in tow, there's a dedicated setting to handle pairing headphones via Bluetooth (because using the inbuilt speaker to enjoy audio would be a bad idea for a number of reasons), while about half of the watch's 4GB of internal storage is available to the user, meaning space for up to around 500 songs.

There's no media app streaming or relay function here, so tracks have to be locally stored on the watch and make it there using the transfer tools within the Huawei Health smartphone app.

Said app lets you load in additional watch faces and view all the fitness data the watch tracks, as well as toying with more advanced settings covering personalisation and user experience.

Honor Watch GS Pro sleep stress score

It's also the place to gain greater insight into your sleep activity; scoring sleep quality, breaking down the various sleep states you experience throughout the night and recommending ways to improve, in terms of bedtime routine and sleep habits; making for insightful reading that other sleep-tracking wearables don't always include.

Neither Lite OS' nor Huawei Health's user experience is particularly challenging to navigate but if you have no prior experience with either, both come with a gentle learning curve to get to grips with, even if you're familiar with smartwatch operating systems and apps from other manufacturers.

Fitness tracking

Third-party app support on Lite OS is practically non-existent, meaning that - without Huawei or Honor's intervention - what you see is what you're likely getting for the long haul. This aspect of the GS Pro is most notable when it comes to fitness, with only Google Fit and MyFitnessPal integration on hand by default (the likes of Strava, Runkeeper and Nike Run Club, for example, are off the table).

Luckily, despite this limitation, the GS Pro tracks an impressive number of activities natively (Honor cites over 100 workout modes), whilst also being jam-packed with sensors to better inform fitness data.

Honor Watch GS Pro heart rate sensor

As well as constant heart rate monitoring - by way of Huawei's TruSeen 3.5 optical heart rate sensor (the slightly older sensor also used by the Huawei Watch GT 2e; the newer TruSeen 4.0 sensor only resides on the likes of the Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro and Huawei Watch Fit at the time of writing) - the GS Pro also tracks sleep and stress, and can check blood oxygen saturation levels too (SpO2): useful for insight into the body's performance and recovery.

In an effort to supercharge the watch's abilities as a hiking companion (the use-case its marketing most heavily leans on), Honor has given the GS Pro a barometer to glean altitude data and detect sudden shifts in air pressure (which usually correlate with incoming storms and weather extremes), as well as tidal, sun and moon-phase tracking, the aforementioned compass and a feature called 'Route Back'.

Honor Watch GS Pro Way Back

Even without your smartphone, when tracking a compatible activity - like hiking or outdoor running - Route Back drops digital "breadcrumbs" (automated GPS waypoints), so that if you stray into the wilds and lose your way, you have a means of getting back without a map or phone; it's pretty neat and will no doubt appeal to keen outdoorsy types.

Other activity tracking highlights include cross-country skiing, triathlon and open-water swimming support, as well as pre-loaded guided running courses, which include voice-based instruction and cater to different fitness goals and abilities.  

Performance and battery

There's a certain refreshing simplicity to the Lite OS-based user experience but it's undermined by the GS Pro's often laggy and lacklustre performance. Swiping around and general interaction seldom feel smooth or responsive, and suspicions point to Huawei's ageing Kirin A1 chip.

While it's a fine chipset for less demanding hardware than a fully-fledged smartphone, it originally launched back in 2019 and was responsible for powering the original Huawei Watch GT 2 that same year (along with non-smartwatches, like the company's Freebuds 3 true wireless headphones).

For wearables that bill themselves as smartwatches, there's a clear divide between performance and battery life. Timepieces like the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 favour responsiveness over longevity and thus adopt more powerful processors at the expense of needing to be recharged every day or so. Rivals from the likes of Amazfit, Huawei and Honor, meanwhile, sacrifice fluidity in order to make their similarly-sized batteries last several days at a time.

The 46mm Honor Magic Watch 2 promised 14-days of use per charge and came close in real-world testing; in the case of the GS Pro, Honor's taken things up a notch, with a quoted 25-day battery life (or up to 100 days in power saving mode), facilitated by a sizeable 790mAh battery (that's over 70% larger in terms of capacity, compared to the Magic Watch 2 and larger than pretty much any current smartwatch battery).

In practice, working out at home (i.e. no GPS tracking required) every other day for around 45 minutes at a time and wearing the watch at night to track sleep, the GS Pro clocked in approximately 20-days; a little shy of Honor's official figures.

Even so, this is one of the longest-lasting colour-screen smartwatches I've tested and the value of its longevity is two-fold. Not having to charge it every week (or even every two weeks) is a huge plus but knowing that it can tackle extended GPS usage is freeing if you're planning a multi-day expedition (Honor quotes 48 hours of GPS usage per charge or 100 hours of use in what it calls 'outdoor GPS power-saving mode').

Price and availability

The Honor Watch GS Pro arrived in September 2020, available in various European markets and the UK from both Honor directly and online retailers, like Amazon.

Priced at £249.99, it's the most expensive Honor smartwatch to date and edges towards the upper end of the mainstream smartwatch market. That said, since its initial launch, it's often available at a discounted rate - falling below £200 - making it far more approachable, while rival devices in the same semi-rugged/rugged space worth consideration fall on both sides of this boundary.

If you're interested in a more affordable alternative, Amazfit's T-Rex or T-Rex Pro will fit the bill, while higher-performance (but shorter-lasting) Wear OS-powered offerings, include 2020's Suunto 7

Verdict

The Honor Watch GS Pro is the brand's most impressive smartwatch yet; loaded with more sensors and features than we've ever seen from the company.

That huge battery also grants it sterling longevity, which is great for smartwatch fans who don't like having to charge every day (or so), as well as fitness fanatics who like to log their excursions using GPS and don't want to have to rely on a phone to do so.

At the same time, its sheer size, rugged styling and new outdoor-first feature set limit its appeal compared to the biggest players in the space, not to mention some of the underlying hardware feels dated and sluggish from the outset.

Specs

Honor Watch GS Pro: Specs

  • Circular 1.39in 454x454 AMOLED display
  • Kirin A1 processor
  • 32MB RAM
  • 4GB storage (2GB user-accessible)
  • Polycarbonate body
  • Stainless steel bezel & buttons
  • Flurororubber/braided nylon 22mm quick-release strap (colourway dependant)
  • Water resistant up to 5ATM
  • Android 5.0+ and iOS 9.0+ compatible
  • Works with Huawei Health app
  • Microphone & speaker
  • Optical heart rate sensor
  • Barometer
  • Compass
  • GPS
  • ‘Route Back’ feature
  • 24/7 heart rate tracking
  • SpO2 monitoring
  • Sleep tracking
  • Stress tracking
  • 100+ workout modes
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • 790mAh battery
  • Up to 25 days use per charge
  • Magnetic POGO pin charging
  • 48mm x 48mm x 13.6mm
  • 45.5 grams (without straps)
  • Colours: Charcoal Black, Marl White, Camo Blue

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